Buna seara: Enter of Your Own Free Will
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It Beats Graffiti
I have been committing cartoons for a couple of years now – I will not call them art, nobody ever calls them that (they usually just make snarky comments). The cartoons exist mostly to fill up space, torment the artistically inclined, and annoy the good people of Brightling, Sussex. View them at your peril. You have been warned.
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Welcome to this Researcher's Journal. If you'd like to comment on anything they have written here, just click the relevant 'Discuss this Entry' button.Open Letter to Stephen Colbert on the Subject of Whether the Potato Famine Was Particularly Amusing (16 Hours Ago)
I probably shouldn't write after supper. After all, the digestive process isn't aided by the kind of thinking I do. Oh, well, the damage is done.
I seldom feel the urge to write letters to strangers - especially not famous strangers. They're more important than I am. It says so on the label.
Also, they don't give out their email addresses, for very good reasons. Lunatics who write on websites might actually use them.
So I'm putting this up as an open letter. Mr Colbert's crew might find it on google.
OPEN LETTER TO STEPHEN COLBERT
Dear Mr Colbert,
I'm a big fan of your work. I've been known to brag on you to the Brits. In fact, I've recently published the first Entry in h2g2.com's Edited Guide ('The Unconventional Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything') devoted to you: A87789190. Most of the time, you're my kind of nutcase, and I stand by you.
The other day, your program made me sad. That sadness is still hauntng me, I felt I needed to mention it, and explain why.
On May 21, 2013, you reported that scientists had solved the mystery of the Irish potato famine by isolating the pathogen. I realise the situation cried out for some humour, and frankly, I liked the epidemiologist joke. But Michael Flatley's shirt, Lucky Charms, and potato clocks? Really? All the potatoes in Ireland had 'jock itch'? The whole thing could have been avoided with a can of Cruex? Ouch.
I'm not hypersensitive. I don't go around pointing fingers and yelling, 'Hey! That's politically incorrect! You take back what you said about my hillbilly ancestors!' (Probably all true, anyway, about the reason they left North Carolina. If only Nimrod hadn't shot that preacher, but then Nimrod was drunk...)
I LIKE Kinky Friedman. You can't be very sensitive if you like the Kinkster. My favourite bluegrass group are the Austin Lounge Lizards. They make fun of everybody, including the Southern Baptist Convention.'Paint Me on Velvet' is a classic.
The jokes about the Potato Famine made me sad, not offended. Not because the jokes were in poor taste, so much as the fact that joking in the face of all that death on the part of other people made me sad. It's not that I'd expect you to play waily tin whistle music in the background while intoning a verse of 'The Praties They Grow Small', or anything like that. And I know you had family in that tragedy yourself, so you must be aware of the pain the catastrophe left in its wake.
But consider that old song for a moment.
'I wish that we were geese, night and morn,
I wish that we were geese, then we all could be at peace,
To the hour of our release, eating corn.'
How sad is that? How horrible is it to think about a million people dying of hunger, and their last thought was that they wished they were geese? I wonder what they would have thought about that Lucky Charms joke.
Yeah, I know. People are still dying of hunger every day. And you do a lot to help, you really do, promoting high-level people who do good deeds. I don't begrudge anybody the humour that goes along with it.
It just made me sad to hear those particular jokes. Since I didn't think sad was what you were after, I thought I ought to mention it.
I'll keep watching.
Thanks for listening,
PS The one about Hitler and the Hannukah card? Not so funny, either.
Click here to discuss this
(3 replies, Latest reply: 6 Hours Ago)
Forget Eurovision: How About that Song for King Willem? (5 Days Ago)
All right, as a writer and sometime poet and lyricist, I feel for the Eerbeek Group. What were they supposed to do?
Look, the National Festival Committee for the Succession of the Throne asked this team to write a song for the new king of the Netherlands. Whose name is Willem. Fair enough.
But wait. They CROWDSOURCED the input.
3300 Netherlanders threw in their suggestions about what went into the song. The songwriting team's job was to distill the idea that the people of Nederland wished their new king well. The song had to include the following keywords:
Water. Wind. Rain. (No problem, this is the Netherlands.) Lions. (Huh?) And stampott - a kind of stew.
They admitted, 'It was a difficult task.' Ya think?
So here's what came out, the version with lyrics for those of us who will get a bigger kick out of it with Dutch in: (Sing along, Willem.)
Okay, for those of you who want the funny video, here it is:
You will notice, there is RAP in there. I suspect that was the only way they could sneak in the stampott. They got the lions in, too. But wait...raise three fingers for Willem? Really?
Great was the outcry. The 'Volkskrant' hated it. One person said he was sticking three fingers in his ears instead of in the air.
After all, maybe they shouldn't have done this so close to the Eurovision Song Contest. It might have been mistaken for an entry from Latvia.
People begged the Committee not to do this to the Royal Family. They did, anyway, and the royal folk soldiered on and smiled bravely.
A couple of students wrote a better, cheerier song, called 'Je bent een Koning!':
Fun, niet? See? They said. Two STUDENTS could come up with something better than that loser.
Anyway, I'm wondering how many people in the Netherlands are going to hold up three fingers whenever they see their new king. Obviously, the songwriters were hoping it would become a meme, or something.
Somehow, I don't think the lyricists of this alternative version are pro-monarchy, since they want to send the royal family to Mozambique:
Finally, for those of you who want to know what the original Willem got sung about him, here's the Netherlands national anthem in all its glory. Well, not ALL its glory: This is only two verses:
Click here to discuss this
(7 replies, Latest reply: 4 Days Ago)
Sociology and the Bobbsey Twins: Merry Daze (2 Weeks Ago)
What can you learn from old children's books? Quite a lot, really.
This morning over coffee, Elektra and I got to discussing the Bobbsey Twins. I'm willing to bet you've never heard of the Bobbsey Twins, but in the 1950s, Bert, Nan, Freddie and Flossie weren't quite past their sell-by date. They were close, though.
'I don't think I ever finished the first book,' said Elektra. 'It was too boring.'
'I read them,' I said. 'They were as interesting to me as when I read Jack Finney's 'Time and Again' as a adult. The stories are a window into bourgeois life in 1904.'
'Ah,' she said. 'I guess so. But bourgeois life in 1904 was pretty boring.'
I agreed. Byt the sociological implications are interesting.
Here's a link, if you're so inclined. Laura Lee Hope's first Bobbsey Twin book, subtitled 'Merry Days Indoors and Out', is here:
A word about 'Laura Lee Hope'. She's a corporate fiction. The books were penned - well, maybe they used a typewriter - by a whole slew of people, half of them men, in the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Sound like a bunch of gangsters. I bet they were proud of themselves. These are the people who also inflicted upon us Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift. These hacks made a fortune, even though libraries often banned their effluvia. As early as 1901, the Newark, New Jersey, Public Library banned Stratemeyer books. The reason? They made students stupid. Okay, they said they induced 'intellectual torpor'.
The first thing I noticed on re-reading was that this stuff was actually more interesting to an adult than to a child. The second was that the kids acted quite naturally - I mean, not the way adults want them to. Freddie in particular is a pistol. He's as pig-headed as any four-year-old could be. He breaks things, and is bossy, and bursts into tears when things don't go his way.
The next thing I noticed was that this book would not fly today - the cook, Dinah, is African American. That dialect has GOT to go. No book containing the word 'gwine' belongs on our bookshelves. It's insulting. Sigh.
You learn a lot about the material culture and social attitudes about life at the turn of the previous century, though:
- At the start of this opus, all four Twins are engaged in building houses out of shoeboxes. Bert makes what his baby sister calls a 'department' house. They model their interior decoration after what they see in relatives' homes.
- Next, they go out to play. Freddie and Flossie play horse and driver. NOT car and driver. Freddie is an obstreperous horse, but Flossie knows just what to do. She manages the reins and gives him water and hay. Different times, different technologies.
- Then comes the first thrilling episode of Major Crisis - the Great Jumprope Incident of 19-Aught-4. It seems Grace's mother has TOLD her not to overdo the rope skipping, but she's, er, 'headstrong'. She tries for 100 JUMPS. When she faints (quiet, exercise fans) a number of things happen.
1. The eight-year-old girls fear she is DEAD.
2. Nan is devastated, because she thinks she's an accessory to murder by virtue of being a rope-thrower.
3. Mr Bobbsey saves the day by carrying the unconscious child into her house.
4. Dr Briskett (!) is called, and advises rest. He also explains that TOO MUCH EXERCISE IS BAD FOR LITTLE GIRLS, so there.
5. The boys stop playing FOOTBALL to commiserate.
What have we learned from this? Apparently, in 1904, female persons were not supposed to do aerobic exercise. It would upset their systems, or something. You know what I found when I googled 'jumping rope health'? The next suggested key word was 'benefits'. I tried 'hazards'. Some clinic pointed out that it was better for you than running, because it was easier on the knees. Take THAT, Dr Briskett.
We have also learned that apparently, nobody worried about the boys playing American football. A sport that is known to cause serious injuries, sometimes with lifelong effects. Oh, well, Bert's tough, he can take it.
Besides, he wants to grow up to be a soldier. (You're going to get your wish, Bert. Good luck against the Hun.) Freddie wants to be a fireman, naturally. When informed of her career choices - mother or stenographer - Nan opts for office work. Flossie insists that she will run a candy-and-ice-cream shoppe, so there. Yay, Flossie.
By the way, Freddie and Flossie are described, approvingly, as 'fat'.
Why am I reading this? Well, I sort of had an idea: to write a story about these kids when they grew up. The Stratemeyer Syndicate's bible specified that the characters could never age (or marry), but Stratemeyer's dead, Aunt Rose, and the Syndicate's gone out of business. [Points for recognising the misquote there.]
The effects of a Lakeport upbringing should be examined in more sociological detail, methinks.
As Dinah says, 'Jess to heah dat now! It's wonderful wot
yo' is gwine to be when yo' is big.'
Elektra and I think Flossie will become a flapper and drive a flivver.
Click here to discuss this
(19 replies, Latest reply: Last Week)
In the Pouring Rain, Very Strange (2 Weeks Ago)
[I've decided to use my journal today for what appears to be its usual purpose. Going by other journals, it's supposed to be a sort of diary. I don't usually feel like a diarist, but hey, I'm willing to learn.]
Dear h2g2 Diary,
It has been pouring down rain all day. We waited until the thunder and lightning stopped, but we still had to go out into the downpour for groceries.
Some stray thoughts on a rainy day:
Stray thought number one: Don't you hate it when you're having a conversation and it's obvious that the other person is using the time when you're speaking to think about what they're going to say next? Don't you double-dog hate it when that's obvious in an online conversation? Go read a few posts and see what I mean.
Stray thought number two: Last night, we were watching 'Mad Men', which we enjoy very much. One very funny scene involved Don Draper, his wife the soap-opera actress, and Don's client, Herb from Jaguar, who is a pig (we know this: to get the Jaguar contract, Joan from the office had to sleep with him). Herb's innocent wife, the naive and chatty Peaches, was along for the ride, as was Megan Draper's arch, drunken French mother.
Peaches was nattering on about the dog having puppies, and how cute they were. Madame Calvet, who is oh-so-superior and pseudo-intellectual, started criticisng the woman in French. What got my nanny was that the discussion boards today found the subtitles of this conversation hilarious, and sided with La Calvet. If they had understood French, they would have found the subtitles even funnier - especially when she gave her daughter that vulgar advice earlier about how to keep her husband interested. Not me: Peaches was the only real person at the table. Me, I would have talked puppies with her till dessert came. Not that it did: Don 'fired' Jaguar and they all stalked out, leaving Peaches looking as if she were thinking, 'Was it something I said?' She doesn't know about her husband. She doesn't know much about Draper, or she wouldn't shake hands with him. Hell, I wouldn't shake hands with his mother-in-law - we know where they've been.
Stray thought number three: The big news today is that the FBI is proud of itself for nailing a domestic terrorist. This is good news, for a change, because they stopped the guy from doing whatever he was planning to do with the Romanian AK-knockoff and the IEDs BEFORE he did it. Good job.
They accomplished this by storming Buford's (that's pronounced 'BYEW-ferd') mobile home - a caravan, to youze - in Montevideo, Minnesota.
This is the point at which I lost it. Montevideo is pronounced 'Mont-eh-VID-e-o'. The lack of romance in domestic terrorism is depressing, really. Not a place name starting with 'Al-' in the account.
Stray thought number four: Over the weekend, we finished watching the miniseries 'Titanic: Blood and Steel', which aired last fall on the Encore channel, but is now on Netflix. We were wowed. Ignore Wiki-p, that's obviously a paid hatchet job.
Most US viewers, unfortunately, didn't get it. All they could think was, 'Chris Noth is wearing the world's ugliest moustache'. Which he is - but it's pure JP Morgan.
What US viewers didn't get was that this series - which portrayed life in Belfast during the building of Titanic - was a close look at Big Jim Larkin, Lord Pirrie, Winston Churchill, Edward Carson (boo), and other change-makers. Thomas Andrews comes out a real hero. NI Researchers might not be too excited: it was mostly filmed in Serbia. I thought Serbia stood in well for Belfast, myself, but that's an uninformed view.
Yes, there was a lot of manufactured lurve-story stuff, and they implied that everyone was going straight from Belfast to New York, instead of the ship's spending months in Southampton. But other than that, it had a good story to tell. My thought was that it is amazing how your perspective on the decisions made is affected by your knowledge that this ship they're sweating blood to build is going straight to Davy Jones.
Stray thought number five: I wonder if that's how God feels.
Stray thought humber six: Speaking of how God feels, the radio preacher was at it again. This week only, he'll take whatever spare change you've got in return for his 20-hour (!) CD seminar on how to pray and get what you want.
I explained to Elektra, 'He's got a system. All the kinds of prayer are catalogued. I wonder if the angels have got the memo.'
Elektra, 'They're probably rolling their eyes and saying, "Stop bothering The Boss. It makes him cross all day."'
Stray thought number seven: I'm glad to be home and dry. I refuse to worry about it all any more today.
Sufficient unto the day is the absurdity thereof.
Click here to discuss this
(42 replies, Latest reply: 2 Weeks Ago)
Weeding the Radishes from the Internet: Lesson from Thomas More (3 Weeks Ago)
Radical: from 'radix' = 'root'. Yeah, that's where 'radish' comes from. Going to the root of things, as far back as the 1650s.
The word's been used - radical, not radish, pay attention - since 1802 to mean extreme political change - radical reform.
In the 1970s, Tom Wolfe talked about radical chic. He accused Leonard Bernstein of it, among others. Where did you get those cool camouflage trousers? And the black beret? Radical, man. Goes with your Che poster.
The OED hasn't caught up yet - at least, according to the scholars in Toronto - but this century, we have a new word. A word I'm not fond of, as you may easily guess.
Rad-i-cal-i-za-tion. I'm spelling it American, because it IS American. And it had better not become anybody else's.
What the bejesus do they mean by this? Well, to put it simply, as far as I can tell, it means:
'Let's figure out what makes people think things we don't want them to think. Then we'll figure out how to change that.'
That used to be called advertising. Maybe we should put Don Draper in charge of Homeland Security.
Is thought the proper subject of government study and action? Well, duh. Of course! We don't want people to think bad things, now, do we?
It's not enough to motivate people to decide - say, on their own - to start wearing their seatbelts, because a) it's a good idea, and b) it's the law...how much better if we rearrange their brains so they won't want to do anything else?
First order of business: study the process of radicalization. Break it down into steps. Beware of the early stages.
Note the 'hidden dangers of non-violent extremism':
(Ha! Thought I was going to show you a white Republican, didn't you? Fooled ya.)
In other words, too much of the wrong kind of thinking is a sort of gateway drug to violent action? (Did anybody ever tell H Rap Brown that? Or Marx, for that matter?)
The Toronto specialists have identified the 'Four Stages of Radicalization', Atarting with 'pre-radicalization'.
Mind you, there's nothing wrong with wearing military fatigues - as long as it's fashion. Radical chic is not necessarily radical. ..but if you're getting in too deep, there's therapy available. Good to know.
Is anybody taking this seriously? How about the White House?
'To more effectively organize our efforts, the Administration is establishing a new Interagency Working Group to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence, chaired by the National Security Staff at the White House and involving specialists in countering violent extremism, Internet safety experts, and civil liberties and privacy practitioners from across the United States Government. '
That's shocking. The US Government has 'civil liberties and privacy practitioners'? That's like finding out that Dr Goebbels employed fact-checkers.
I think these folks would have enjoyed comparing notes with Henry VIII, Defender of the Faith. You know, the guy who beheaded Saint Sir Thomas More.
Okay, wait. You may not have heard of Saint Sir Thomas More. You can spell jihad, but do you young folks know about the headline issues that bothered us old-timers back during the Reformation?
The King promoted More to Top Dog, because back then, they shared a world-view: they both despised Martin Luther and all his works and pomps. (Long story, but vulgar, over-educated Germans got right up their noses.)
His Majesty might not be keen on Protestantism, but he really, really needed a divorce to marry his latest squeeze. So he ditched the Church and made up his own. More, inventor of the word 'utopia', had a sort of one-track mind. He forgot to change his opinions when the King did. More wasn't a fool - although his buddy Erasmus used that as his nickname, pun on the Latin 'morus', etc. More kept quiet. It didn't save him, because they KNEW what he was thinking. And he was thinking it too loudly.
Here's Thomas More's defence speech:
Those are More's words. That's not him, of course. That's some actor. He's been played by Paul Scofield, Charlton Heston, and a very serious Physics professor I once had the honour of sharing a stage with. Okay, I also had the honour of beheading him, but it wasn't for real, so that was okay.
Hey wait - is it okay? Have my ideas been radicalized? Better do a self-diagnostic. Do I wear camo? No. Whew.
In short: radicalization is a dangerous evil. It is apparently catching - like what the Nazis called 'the bacillus of democracy'. And it is spread on the internet.
In Robert Bolt's play, 'A Man for All Seasons', Thomas More says an interesting thing:
'What you have hunted me for is not my actions, but the thoughts of my heart. It is a long road you have opened. For first men will disclaim their hearts and presently they will have no hearts. God help the people whose Statesmen walk your road.'
By the way, that was almost 500 years ago.
Personally, I don't think God is going to help the people whose statesmen walk this road. Because the first stage of radicalization is praying too much - that's what the man said.
As usual, the internet is to blame. Too much thinking going on around here.
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(5 replies, Latest reply: 3 Weeks Ago)
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